People Places Things
by Hope Madden
I dare you to dislike Jemaine Clement. Just try to – it’s not even possible.
Whether he’s the aspiring pop star of Flight of the Conchords, the sexy vampire of What We Do In the Shadows, or just the voice of the damn horse in those Direct TV ads, he is always memorable, likeable, and hilarious.
In People Places Things, Clement steps out of the shadows and takes on romantic lead responsibilities as newly single graphic novelist Will. Will finds himself lonely and directionless after longtime partner/baby mama Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) leaves him for a monologist named Gary (a very funny Michael Chernus).
Nothing really works out well as Will floats through many failed attempts at living – teaching the graphic novel, mentoring a talented student, dating her mother, spending more time with his (ridiculously adorable) twin daughters, finishing his book, accepting Charlie’s new life and impending marriage.
Filmmaker James Strouse has been writing movies about lost men for a long time, beginning with the under-appreciated Lonesome Jim back in ‘05. People Places Things is his most surefooted script, populated with appealing characters that are nicely realized by Strouse’s strong cast.
Clement can generate chemistry with anyone who walks on screen, which is no doubt part of his charm. This is particularly true with Regina Hall, who shines in a very different kind of comedic role than those she usually takes. The humor is sly and a bit quiet, but wonderful nonetheless.
Allynne succeeds with the most difficult role, delivering a believably neurotic counterpoint to Will, a woman pretending to be sure of herself and her future who is actually exactly as lost as he is.
In a lot of ways, the film serves up a traditionally structured if attractively indie rom-com, but the way the cast – Clement, in particular – underplays the drama and lets the comedy breathe a bit, you don’t feel manipulated. The film is somewhat daringly low-key, relying on a talented cast to unveil the longing and loneliness behind the laughs.
It’s a messy, sweet, funny look at self-discovery and relationships, masquerading as a romantic comedy.